Stats and soccer… turns out, possession is good.

Here’s one for the soccer fans — really, specifically, for my older son. He’s a quantitative nerd, and he likes to point out that in soccer possession is not correlated to goals… but it turns out he’s wrong! Ah, it makes me so happy to point out that he’s wrong in statistics.

Reep eventually came to a realization: Most goals in soccer come off of plays that were preceded by three passes or fewer. ‘[But] he should have flipped things around, focusing on the probability that a given sequence would produce a goal. Yes, a large proportion of goals are generated on short possessions, but soccer is also fundamentally a game of short possessions and frequent turnovers. … [so] a small sequence [doesn’t have] a higher probability of leading to a goal. To the contrary, a team’s probability of scoring goes up as it strings together more successful passes.’ (from: How One Man’s Bad Math Helped Ruin Decades Of English Soccer)

Of course, this logic suggests that the Sounders are crushing it this season, which their 2-5-4 (two wins, five losses, four ties) for ten points doesn’t really support. On the other hand, last season at this point they were 4-6-1 for thirteen points and ended up winning the MLS cup, so at this rate I guess they’re on track to win something even bigger than the MLS cup. Woot!

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